This series of posts started with “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home” where we explored the site of great grandfather James McCardle’s Proleek farm. A kilometer from there, at Proleek Dolmen, the ancient portal stones line up to face the plain rising to Slieve Gullion, a name for the mountain taken from the Irish, Sliabh gCuillinn, meaning “mountain of the steep slope” or Sliabh Cuilinn, “Culann’s mountain.”
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There is an connection between Proleek and Slieve Gullion. Cycles of Irish Myth place a boy named Sétanta living on Muirthemne Plain, of which what we call Proleek Townland was a part. One day, the king Conchobar was passing his kingdom, Muirthemne, on the way to a feast on the slopes of Slieve Gullion hosted by the blacksmith Culann when he stopped to watch boys playing hurling, Sétanta among them (it is ironic the Proleek Dolmen is surrounded by a golf course in modern times).
Impressed by the Sétanta’s skill, the king invites him to the feast. Having a game to finish Sétanta promises to follow. As evening falls the boy approaches the smith’s house to find himself attacked by a huge, aggressive dog. Acting in the moment, Sétanta dispatches the dog with the hurley and ball he had at hand, driving the ball down the hound’s throat. (In another version he smashes the hound against a standing stone.)
Feeling Culann mourn the loss of his beloved animal, Sétanta promises to raise and train a guard dog equal to the one he slew. Until that time he also pledged to guard Culann’s home. From that time Sétanta was known as “the hound of Cullann”, Cú Chulainn in Irish.
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